How Any PhD Can Get Hired In Industry (6 Steps)

Do you have a job search strategy to be hired in industry?

An actual job search strategy that guides the actions you will take to get hired in industry?

Or do you tend to start the week without a structured plan when it comes to your transition?

You wake up on Tuesday and submit a few resumes, do nothing Wednesday and Thursday, reach out to a few contacts on Friday, coast on the weekend, and search for online job postings on Monday. And expect to be hired in industry.

Does this sequence sound absurd? Are you thinking that nobody searches for a job like this? Nobody gets hired in industry like this.

I can tell you that most PhDs do. Especially at the beginning.

Be honest with yourself, if we catalogued your job search activities in a spreadsheet hour by hour, what would the end result look like? 

Keep in mind that thinking about your job search and playing scenarios in your head don’t count as activities.

I recently talked to one of our members and they shared the following story with me:

I started a new job yesterday! Like many other associates, I had all my job search strategy wrong, I was applying online and getting only rejections. I joined CSA and started going through the modules. A couple of months later I saw a job posting that seemed a very good fit for me at company A. I looked at the list of employees on LinkedIn and found that one of them was a postdoc in my same institution, so I used that common experience as an ice breaker to reach out. He was really helpful and shared the name of the hiring manager and offered to pass my cv to her after my online application. A few days later I had a phone call with the company recruiter and the hiring manager, which I thought didn’t go well. Thanks for changing my job search strategy and giving me the extra confidence that I needed to reach out to people!

Getting a job is not luck. It requires that you take action and put in the effort.

If you don’t have an actual job search strategy set in place, it is time to start working on that.

Why You Need A Better Job Search Strategy To Be Hired In Industry

Industry companies receive 500 resumes on average for every open position. So, there is a lot of competition.

And the competition is even steeper for the top 1% positions, which are exactly the ones that PhDs target.

If you want to get hired into one of those positions, you can’t just rely on luck and hope for the best.

Job searching is a multi-step process that requires a strategic approach. You have to break down your final goals into actionable steps and you have to plan each step in advance.

At the same time, you need to evaluate each step based on the time and effort it’s going to take you and the impact it will have on your final goal.

job search strategy

This requires strategic thinking.

Your time in academia has provided you with the methodical mentality to create a job search strategy.

But for this strategy to be successful, you also need to understand how things work in an industry setting. After all, you are not looking for your next academic job.

To set up an industry job search strategy, you need to understand your options and the steps it will take for you to reach your goal.

After that, you will need to set up a list of steps and execute them in the right order to ensure you have the best impact and optimize the time it will take you to get hired.

Here, I want to talk about some of the steps that you need to take to establish a successful job search strategy and when you should take each of those steps.

A 6-Step Job Search Search Strategy Any PhD Can Follow

To get hired, you have to design a campaign. You have to map out from A to Z what steps you are going to take, and you have to plan for contingencies. You cannot just fly by the seat of your pants.

The only way you will be able to map out your steps in an effective way is by knowing what the overall process will look like and what has worked for others in your situations.

The steps I’m going to discuss take into consideration these two components. That’s why it’s so important that you execute them in order and without skipping any of them.

1. Establish your target career

If you recently started to read Cheeky Scientist materials and plan your transition, it’s likely that you are currently overwhelmed with your options and don’t know what career to pursue.

Sure, being a medical writer sounds great, but so does being an industry project manager, or an R&D scientist.

Maybe you are thinking that you don’t need to commit to a career right now. That you can start your job search while exploring your options and the pieces will fall into place along the way.

But this isn’t how an industry job search works.

Different positions talk different languages and value different skills. You need to know what career you are targeting before you start actively looking for jobs. So you can target your job search to that career.

Industry employers are looking for certainty, especially in the current job market, which is filled with uncertainty.

If you are not even sure why you want a position once you start interviewing, you will come across as a risky candidate.

The first step in your job search strategy is to ponder your options and to decide what career you want to pursue for your first transition. This will help you guide your next steps.

2. Set the right expectations

Starting your job search knowing what that actually looks like will help you better plan each action and prevent you from getting demotivated when it’s not warranted.

An industry company receives 250 resumes per day. It will call 12 to 15 candidates for a phone screen, 3 or 4 will move on to the video interview, 2 will go to the site visit, and the top candidate will receive a job offer.

This is called the  industry hiring funnel and it’s pivotal when setting expectations for your job search.

This is how the industry hiring funnel translates to a candidate: on average, you’re going to apply to at least 40 positions with targeted industry resumes and you’ll go through five or six interview processes to finally get the job offer that you want.

Facing the job search with the right expectations will help you manage your energy and stay motivated, while avoiding emotional turmoil.

Many PhDs start their industry job search with the wrong thresholds in mind. 

They think they will apply to three of four jobs and get hired. These unrealistic expectations cause them to space out over several weeks, which is a productivity killer.

Once you know what your target career is. Set up the right expectations and keep them in mind as you move forward with your job search.

hired in industry

3. Reinvent your industry resume and LinkedIn profile

Before starting reaching out to industry employees and applying for jobs. You should have your industry resume and LinkedIn profile ready.

LinkedIn is a powerful social media platform extensively used by job posters and job seekers.

The moment you start reaching out to people and applying for jobs, industry employers will start visiting your profile.

And if it’s not professional or looks too academic, you will make a bad first impression. The kind of impression that could cost you a job. 

Therefore, you need to complete your LinkedIn profile before you start interacting with industry professionals.

You probably know that you should target your resume for each position you apply to. So, you’re probably thinking that it is impossible to set it up before you start applying for jobs to be hired in industry.

While it is true that you cannot finish your resume before seeing the job advert, you can have the structure ready ahead of time.

Before applying for jobs, focus on having a resume in the right format and build some bullet points based on your main achievements. 

If you let this structure in place, it will be easy to do the final targeting once you apply for an actual position.

Setting your LinkedIn profile and industry resume shouldn’t take you more than a week or two. And once the first drafts are finished, you should only spend a couple of minutes everyday targeting them.

Don’t use the fact that these steps come before networking as an excuse to procrastinate. As important as it is to work on the first three steps, the last three steps are the ones that will actually take you closer to your final goal.

4. Expand or re-engage your network

When it comes to setting up a successful job search strategy, you should spend most of your time networking.

This may be expanding your network by reaching out to new people working in your target companies or re-engaging your network by reaching out to old connections after a while.

Keep in mind that networking is an ongoing process. Reaching out is just the first step.

The major component of your networking efforts is following up consistently with an ever-growing list of contacts at the companies you want to work for, setting up informational interviews with these people, and gently guiding them to a position where you can gently ask them for a job referral.

If you don’t like talking to people or reaching out to strangers, that’s too bad. It probably means you will stay in academia for a very long time. 

If you want a job that pays well and allows you to do the best possible work you can do, you must get comfortable with the process of seeking job referrals. 

At the heart of any effective job search strategy is an intelligent networking strategy. The time for you to start strategizing is now.

5. Record your progress daily

Where are you documenting your progress? Where are you writing down your plans for each day of the month? 

Do you have a plan? Are you following a protocol? If not, it’s time to start doing so.

Documenting your progress is a pivotal part of your job search strategy. It will help you stay on track of your new connections and job leads.

This organized approach will ensure you don’t miss any opportunity and keep a professional approach throughout your job search. 

At the very least, you should have a spreadsheet with 5 columns: Companies of Interest, Job Postings or Informational Interview Notes, Company Contacts, Date You Last Followed Up, Next Follow Up Date.

job search strategy

6. Prepare rigorously for your interviews

If you follow the previous steps of the job search strategy, you will start getting called for interviews in no time and you need to be prepared.

This means you need to start setting up mock interviews before those calls. 

You need to actually practice interview situations in front of someone. Ask a friend or colleague to serve as the interviewer and record your answers so you know where you need to improve.

Simply reading common interview questions and answering them in your head is not enough. You need to be fully aware of how you come across. 

Most PhDs come off as noncommittal, non-serious, or as amateurs during interviews, that’s the feedback that we get from employer after employer.

This happens because PhDs don’t know how to carry themselves like industry professionals. The only way to overcome this obstacle – at least until you get some industry experience – is to practice your interviews.

Concluding Remarks

Job searching is a multi-step process that requires a strategic approach to be hired in industry. You have to break down your final goals into actionable steps and you have to plan each step in advance. When it comes to your future career, you can’t just rely on luck. There is too much at stake. Instead, set up a successful job search strategy by following these steps in order. Start by defining your target career and setting up the right expectations. Then, set up your industry resume and LinkedIn profile. The next step is the most important: expand and re-engage your network. Record your progress to stay organized and start practicing interviews as soon as possible to be hired in industry.

 If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist

Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of the largest career training platform for PhDs in the world - Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published two bestselling books with Wiley and his methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

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